Promoting Bipartisan Action to Mitigate Climate Change Impacts Through Psychological Distance Framing
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Research shows that portraying climate change impact as psychologically close leads to greater concern about climate change. However, people’s intentions to engage in mitigation actions are not consistently influenced by distance framing. Distance framing also seems to have different influence on climate change concern and behavioral intention of people with different political ideology and other individual characteristics. This dissertation investigates two sets of explanations to address the concern-action gap, one focusing on the role of discrete emotion and the other exploring desirability and feasibility as mental construal activated at far vs close psychological distance. To test these explanations, two large-scale online experiments were conducted. Results indicate that framing climate change impacts as closer in spatial and social distance instigates more concrete emotions such as fear and sadness, of which many are not conducive to climate change engagement. Further, as expected, perceived desirability of mitigation action has a stronger impact on climate change engagement at farther distance, whereas perceived feasibility of mitigation action has a stronger impact on engagement at closer distance. To reconcile ideological polarization, results indicate that distance framing has the potential to bridge the gap in concern and engagement between liberals and conservatives because individuals are more likely to pay attention to contextualized information at closer distance. This dissertation points to a developmental perspective of strategic risk communication, whereas construal level of risks at different psychological distance needs to be accounted for when communicating them to the public.